Kashrus FAQs

All You Need to Know

How does the kosher certification process work exactly? / What about how restaurants are supervised?

First off, when a food production company approaches a Kosher agency to provide a hechsher
on a certain food, the supervising agency reviews the ingredients to make sure that they are all
Kosher. (If not all the ingredients are kosher, different ideas for substitutes are discussed.)
Thr Kashrus agency then goes through the manufacturing plant to ensure that kosher
production will be viable, given other variables that may be in-play. (For examples, ensurance of
Bishul Yisroel – meaning, that a Jew turns on the flame at the outset of cooking.)
At this point, a deal can be finalized.
Once the deal is ‘in-place’, the supervising agency still comes into the plant from time to time to
make sure that all is running in the plant as was laid-out. The frequency of visits is determined
in part by the complexity of the plant Kashrus-wise, for example if Kosher productions happens
near non-Kosher productions, to ensure that all is operating properly.

What is “Yoshon”?

‘Yoshon’ is a term that pertains to grain products. ‘Yoshon’ means that the grain took root before
a certain date on the calendar. The date of a certain grain is important to know because grain
that took root after Passover, may not be eaten. (This grain is called ‘Chodosh’ grain.)
However, this is not necessarily the ‘final say’. There is a Halachic dispute whether this rule is
fully binding in America today. (Or, for example, like the Or Zarua holds, just in Israel). Some
Halachic authorities rule that there is not an absolute requirement to concern oneself here in
America, about when the grain took root. Therefore, many people will buy ‘Chodosh’ grain
products.
(Still, all of the ingredients themselves, must be Kosher.)
For those who are careful to only eat Yoshon, some bread/flour products are conveniently
marked, ‘Yoshon’. Other kosher grain products that are not market ‘Yoshon’, still may be
permissible. One can follow certain dates and guidelines that indicate whether or not the grain
took root before Passover. Consumers can ‘stock up’ on the pre-Passover grains while they’re
available in-stores, during the ‘season’.
Please speak with your Rabbi or contact the Vaad if you’d like guidance in observing Yoshon.

I want to convert my kitchen to kosher. How do I go about it?

Thanks for sharing the news! Please give the Vaad a call for guidance from one of our trained
Rabbis, who can help you achieve this goal.

Why is there a hechsher on some products that are so obviously kosher?

Products that are ‘so obviously kosher’…surprisingly, about some of these products, one can’t be
so sure!
This is because there are many unexpected ways of manufacturing, which may affect the Kosher
status. For example, bottled water may be pasteurized on the same equipment as milk (taking on
the halachic status of the milk)!
So, a certifying agency can ensure that even seemingly ‘surely kosher’ products, indeed are
produced in a kosher manner.
Feel free to talk with your Rabbi or call the Vaad about certain products that you can safely buy
without a hechsher.

Why can’t I just read the ingredients on a label, and if everything is kosher, use that product?

There are a few potential pitfalls with making a judgement-call about whether it’s o.k. to eat
something, from only reading the ingredients.
One possible issue is, some of those little-known ingredients that show up on the label, can come
from non-kosher animals. (For example, Lipase and Glycerides).
Another issue is, certain ingredients – the same ingredient – can come from either kosher or non-
kosher sources. (The consumer can’t be sure that it’s kosher). / Similarly, other ingredients may
fall under the vague umbrella of ‘natural flavoring’, and not even be listed! How can a consumer
know that such a product is kosher?!
Lastly, even if a product would ‘pass’ the above tests, and all of its ingredients be kosher – still,
the equipment that the food was processed in, may have also seen non-kosher products. This
may render our prospective ‘kosher’ food, not kosher.
So, when all is said and done – one would be wise to look for a (reliable) hechsher stamped on
the foods that he buys!

Is it safe to buy products in an all-kosher store, or one with a special ‘kosher section’, without checking for the hechsher? (Of course the food on the shelves must be kosher!)

It is always a good idea to check foot items from the shelves, for a hechsher.
There are sometimes mistakes in shipment and product stocking, so a non-Kosher item could
potentially end up on the shelf. / Similarly, the store could order an unfamiliar hechsher, that a
consumer may be wise to not trust (without first verifying the hechsher’s reliability with one’s
Rabbi or with the Vaad).
And on a more everyday basis, a person who is careful to only buy cholov Yisroel, pas Yisroel, or
Yoshon, will find that some Kosher supermarkets may carry Kosher items that do not meet these
standards. So, such a shopper would check the label to ensure that it is up to his Kashrus
standard.

I have seen a product kosher certified as pareve which contains a warning label that it “may contain milk”. Wouldn’t this make the status of the product, ‘dairy’ ?

Contrary to what the label might indicate, there actually is no concern that a ‘may contain milk’
item should actually be marked Kosher dairy, rather than Kosher pareve. This is because any
minute milk traces that are included in such an item, are considered ‘batel’-nullified according
to Halacha. (This ‘milk’ listing on the label, is for allergy purposes only.) Such an item’s Kosher
status does not become dairy, so ‘pareve’ is the correct listing.

Why is it important to check vegetables for bugs? After all they can’t even be seen!

Checking for bugs is amongst the laws of the Torah that may seem hard to understand. It is true,
having a minute bug on a piece of lettuce may not make someone ‘grossed-out’ and not want to
eat it. Also, they don’t seem to pose any health hazard. We wouldn’t think that it’s important to
avoid eating these tiny creatures.
But still, being one of the Divine laws to not eat many types of insects (Vayikra 11:20-23), Jewish
people strive to carry out this law to the best of their abilities. And, in fact, the Torah says that
avoiding eating these bugs (and other Kosher laws), increases holiness.
For specific guidance about which vegetables need to be checked for bugs, and how to do this
checking, please contact your Rabbi or the Vaad.x

How could it be that Kosher certifying agencies, certify food that is terribly unhealthy? Is it not written in the Torah to guard one’s health?! How could this food be ‘kosher’?!

Yes, it is true that Kosher agencies certify many foods that are high in salt, sugar, and saturated
fat.
However, eating these foods in moderation – not too much, and not too often – is not considered
by medical professionals to pose a danger to one’s health.
It is up to each person to be responsible to eat a balanced and moderate diet, to fulfill the
Torah’s dictum of guarding one’s health.

Do plain canned vegetables require a hechsher? (What could be wrong with them?)

Interestingly, some canned vegetable plants produce other items during the year (what is called
the ‘off-season’). These items may be non-kosher. This may render the equipment non-
kosher…and the next season’s vegetables is produced on this very same equipment!
So, kosher supervision over canned vegetables ensures that those vegetables were heated on
kosher equipment.

Does a hechsher on frozen vegetables mean that they have been checked for bugs (and that I do not need to check them)?

A kosher certification on frozen vegetables ensures two important points: that there are no non-
kosher ingredients and that the vegetables were heated on kosher equipment.
However, with regards to a third important point, the making-sure that there are no bugs on the
vegetables – some Kashrus agencies check these vegetables for bugs, but others do not. Please
contact the Kashrus agency directly to find out whether vegetables with their hechsher still need
to be checked for bugs.

Do herbal teas require kosher certification?

Many teas do not require Kosher certification, and can be consumed without any Kashrus label.
However, herbal teas which include “natural and artificial” flavors, do require Kosher
certification. This vague term of “natural and artificial” means that the tea contains numerous
other ingredients, some of which may be non-Kosher. Therefore, kosher certification is
necessary for herbal teas with this “natural and artificial” listing, to ensure that all of its
ingredients are kosher.

Do all seasonings and spices require kosher certification?

Pure seasonings that do not include mixtures of other ingredients, are generally acceptable
without Kosher supervision. (Examples of ‘mixtures’ which would require Kosher supervision
are, ‘spice oils’ or ‘spice blends’.)
Spices or seasonings that are imported from Israel – even though all of their ingredients may be
kosher [i.e. pure seasonings, as discussed above] – do require the supervision of a Kashrus
agency. This is because of Halachic concerns governing produce that was grown in Israel
specifically. / (These Halachic concerns are true for all Israeli produce. Therefore, all Israeli
produce needs a valid Kashrus label.)

I have heard that it is not so wise to buy products with a Kosher symbol that I haven’t seen before. Why is this?

It is true, it is not so advisable to purchase products with an unfamiliar hechsher. This is for a
couple of reasons. One, there are varying standards of Kosher supervision amongst different
agencies. Some organizations rely on more Halachic leniencies than others do. And two, some
agencies are simply more competent than others in making sure that proper Kosher procedures
are maintained and continue to be implemented.
It comes out, a person can only be confident that he is eating Kosher when the food is supervised
by an organization that he trusts.
When happens if one sees a product with a ‘strange-looking’ Kosher symbol? One need not
‘shelve’ the product, but rather may contact the Vaad to find out about the hechsher’s reliability.

Can I buy flavored coffee drinks at (non-Kosher) coffee shops?

It is not recommended to buy flavored coffees at non-Kosher shops. This is because of a number
of concerns, such as:
One, the Kashrus of the product’s actual ingredients.
Two, even if the ingredients are Kosher, it may have been prepared on non-Kosher machinery or
come into contact with other non-Kosher foods being served – which may render the drink non-
Kosher.
And three, the beverage may have been fully cooked by a non-Jew (called ‘bishul akum’), which
also renders the substance non-Kosher.
On this topic, it should be noted that black coffee and decaffeinated tea are allowed to be
purchased from such establishments.

May one drink tap water in Far Rockaway (or New York City), without filtering?

There are multiple Halachic opinions on this matter. The topic is about bugs being in the water
stream, and the permissibility of drinking such water. Please ask your Rabbi for his conclusion
on this matter.
It is worth noting, all opinions agree that one may drink tap water in the Five Towns (which has
a different water system than Far Rockaway / New York City).

Does dish soap require kosher certification?

There are various Halachic opinions about this matter. Please ask your Rabbi for his conclusion.